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Here’s a step-by-step for planting potatoes in containers.
AHEAD OF TIME: Prepare the potatoes
Whether you are planting in the ground or in containers you need to prepare the potatoes ahead of time. Using a clean knife, cut the potatoes into 4ths or 6ths. There should be at least one good “eye” per piece. Now leave the pieces on a tray or screen in the shade or indoors to dry. I recommend a minimum of 1 day but have left them to dry for a couple days without a problem. You will see sprouts beginning to grow, that is good! Any pieces that shrivel with no sprouts should be discarded. Preparing the potatoes like this prevents them from rotting in the soil.
Planting In Containers
1. Start with a deep container (24″ minimum) with good drainage. I used a #15 (15 gallon pot). You can use terra cotta for a nicer look.
2. Add good potting soil. Don’t skimp on this part! I used our Gardner & Bloome All Purpose Potting soil but this year I’ll use the Blue Ribbon Blend instead. You need something that holds plenty of moisture yet drains well and is rich in nutrients and nutrient holding capacity. If any of these fail, you will have less than desirable results.
3. Add about 4 inches of potting soil and press firmly. Add one layer of cut potatoes spacing the potatoes a couple inches apart.
4. Mix some potting soil (about 1/2 the container’s worth) with the recommended amount of fertilizer (see fertilizer package for details). Again, don’t skimp on this either. I can’t stress enough that you get what you pay for. I use Gardner & Bloome Tomato, Vegetable and Herb fertilizer. Now add some of this mixture to cover the potatoes by just a few inches. Your container will still be pretty empty and that’s fine.
5. NOW WAIT. Water thoroughly and wait a couple days until the sprouts push up through the soil. You can add another layer of pieces now and a couple more inches of the soil mixture. Water.
6. Repeat step 5 until the soil level in your container is about 6 inches from the top. Then add any soil mixture you have left or plain potting soil until the soil level is 2-3 inches below the lip of the container. Water. DO NOT OVERFILL THE CONTAINER with soil! Leaving enough lip of the container is important to ensure you can add enough water to thoroughly saturate the entire container.
Maintaining your Container of Potatoes
Watering is going to be the most important part. I have found that a it is a challenge to keep the entire container watered. My suggestion is to use a watering stake or 1/2′ pipe with holes drilled in it down the middle to ensure thorough watering. So be diligent in how well you water this container. If you aren’t sure, use a moisture meter!
Fertilizing is also crucial with this crop. Using the soil preparation and fertilizer I have recommended the potato plants should be well fed for at least 2 months. At 2 months I recommend fertilizing again. This is to ensure the potatoes have a steady supply of nutrients, especially since the frequent waterings required in our warm climate strip the soil of its nutrients.
Insects and diseases are occasionally a problem so be on the look out. Being aware is key so you can treat any possible infection as soon as possible. If you do end up with something and not sure what it is or how to treat it, bring us a sample. We can help!
When to harvest potatoes depends on when you want to eat them. You can carefully harvest some (or all if eaten soon) when they reach the desired size (i.e. new potatoes). If you harvest new potatoes be sure not to injure the plant so it can continue to grow and develop spuds whether you are harvesting or just peeking at the size. Always make sure the spuds are covered with soil or they will turn green at which time they are inedible and poisonous.
For potatoes that you plan on storing it is best to let the vines grow until yellow then brown to ensure the spuds are developed. Then leave the spuds in the soil (or container in this case) undisturbed for a couple weeks so they can cure. Do not water during the curing stage. Once they are cured, “lift”, brush off excess soil and store in a cool, dry place.
That’s all it takes to grow your own potatoes!
Happy Spud Planting!
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